A1 A1
Justice withdraws his name from consideration for Greenbrier East boys' basketball coaching job

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has withdrawn his name from consideration as the boys basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School.

Justice made the announcement at 4:50 p.m. Tuesday in a statement released to local news media through Steve Ruby, one of the attorneys who was representing Justice in the grievance he filed with Greenbrier County Schools last week.

Justice is withdrawing the grievance, Ruby said.

“We need to move forward,” Justice said in the letter. “Pick a coach. The kids deserve that, and I wish them all the success.”

In the letter, Justice, whose other attorney, Michael Carey, threatened legal action against the school board in a letter last month, again alluded to legal action Tuesday saying, “Everyone believes unanimously that if we proceed to court, Jim Justice will be the head boys’ basketball coach.”

“Any court would deem this level of activity is manifestly arbitrary and capricious,” Justice said in the letter, referring to an “arbitrary and capricious” standard of proof grievances have to meet in the West Virginia public employees grievance process.

Justice’s withdrawal marks what could be a near end to the back-and-forth to hire a new Greenbrier East boys boys coach that began after Vernal “Bimbo” Coles resigned on July 6.

The governor remains the high school’s girls basketball coach.

The Greenbrier Board of Education initially delayed its vote on Superintendent Jeff Bryant’s recommendation to hire Justice during a meeting on Aug. 11. That same day, Justice gave an interview with West Virginia MetroNews in which he said that, because of his age and schedule, he would have to hire “great” assistant coaches, who would “have to do all the work.”

“I’ll coach the game,” Justice said in the interview.

None of the Greenbrier East parents, students and Greenbrier County residents who spoke against hiring Justice during board meetings mentioned his politics or criticized his coaching record. Instead, they referred to the comments he gave to MetroNews, saying they want a coach who would be present full-time, meaning coaching at practice and at ball games.

At least one parent told the board that the governor’s time and effort should be more dedicated to the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board rejected the recommendation to hire Justice in a 3-2 vote during a meeting on Aug. 23.

Justice filed a grievance with the school district last week, and a group of his Greenbrier resort employees and friends came to a board meeting on Sept. 17 to urge the members to hire him, even though the board was not set to vote on Justice’s hiring or any other recommendations for the Greenbrier East coaching job.

Justice’s supporters all said the governor has a good coaching record and cares about the students he coaches.

In his letter Tuesday, Justice referred to his coaching record, as he and his attorneys have done in previous public statements, and said the action of the Greenbrier school board to not hire him was “vile.”

“Does the hate of these board members hurt? Of course, it does,” the governor said. “When you love your school and community as I do — it really hurts.”

Justice said being governor is his first priority and that he would never be ashamed of “hard work helping kids achieve goodness.”

“Nevertheless, I am withdrawing my name from pursuing the Head Boys’ Basketball Coach position,” he wrote in the letter. “I refuse to spend time fighting HATE. My Dad said over and over to me that you should never try to teach an elephant to sing — the elephant will never be able to do it and you’ll only frustrate yourself. I don’t have time to be frustrated.”

Justice has coached the girls basketball team since 2000. He also was the Greenbrier East boys coach from 2010 until resigning in 2017, during his first year as governor.

“I will excitedly coach the girls and as always, they will succeed,” Justice said in his letter Tuesday. “Also, Dad also always said, ‘Don’t confuse effort with accomplishment.’ ”

On Aug. 17, Greenbrier East Principal Ben Routson said six people had applied for the job.

That day, Routson released a statement on behalf of the hiring committee that recommended Justice, saying the governor was the “obvious choice” for the job. Routson, Assistant Principal David Vincent and Athletic Director Jason Stewart made up the hiring committee that recommended Justice for the job.

Bryant now has to make another coaching recommendation to the Greenbrier board.

At least one person addressed potential ethical issues with Bryant recommending the governor for the job, since Bryant is the entertainment director at The Greenbrier resort, which Justice owns. Board President Jeanie Wyatt’s husband, Mike, owns Greenbrier Photography, which leases business space in The Greenbrier.

A special meeting of the school board is scheduled for Thursday, but it was unclear Tuesday if a new recommendation for the boys coaching job would be on the agenda, which does include personnel matters.

Bryant wasn’t available for comment Tuesday.

Summersville Lake hydroelectric chief, city's mayor urge Army Corps to study raising winter pool level

The mayor of Summersville and the manager of the hydroelectric power plant at Summersville Lake want the plant to produce more power.

They’re looking to raise the lake’s winter pool level to make that happen.

Mayor Robert Shafer and Beth Harris, of Bethesda, Maryland-based hydroelectric power company Central Rivers Power, told the West Virginia Joint Standing Energy Committee during last week’s interim legislative session that they are looking to raise the lake’s winter pool level.

They said the move would allow the hydroelectric plant to supply renewable power to 45 additional homes beyond the 20,000 Shafer said the plant already produces power to year-round.

However, the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the Nicholas County lake, has concerns. The lake was created in the 1960s to reduce flood damage in the Gauley and Kanawha valleys. The Corps said raising the winter pool could compromise onsite flood-control capacity.

Shafer and Harris want the Corps to study the feasibility of raising the winter pool level of 1,575 feet, which the lake is held at from December through March, by 50 feet.

“We get frustrated sometimes because of how the water’s managed in our lake,” Shafer told lawmakers at their Sept. 14 meeting, asking them for a resolution of support for the study.

Shafer said a 1981 Corps study indicated that the pool level could be raised in the winter without adversely affecting flood control at the lake.

Huntington District spokesman Brian Maka said the 1981 study provided recommendations for implementing federal hydropower at Summersville Lake. But federal hydropower was not authorized at the lake and the recommendations were not implemented.

Noting that the process required to reallocate flood storage to other purposes such as hydropower has become “more robust” since the 1981 study, Maka added that any new proposed reallocation of flood storage requires a new study.

The water level is raised to 1,652 feet from May through mid-September so that the lake has more storage to capture flood flow and reduce river crest through the Kanawha Valley during the traditional flood season, Maka said.

“At some point, an event will occur that will completely fill the project’s flood storage,” he said. “When this occurs, the project is forced to release storage into the flood waters occurring downstream.”

One of the Corps’ greatest concerns, Maka said, is to have a large flood event on a lake that has some of its designed flood-control storage filled because of a previous storm. That’s why projects are required to return to seasonal pool levels as quickly as possible to prepare for the next event.

The city of Summersville is 51% owner of the hydroelectric plant. The private, Tennessee-based Noah Corp. owns 49%. That public-private partnership and Central River Powers would have to pay about $1 million for the study, according to Shafer.

“We’ve got the funds. We’re not worried about that,” Shafer said, reporting that the city and its partners have been reserving funds from the plant’s hydroelectric production to fund the study.

Maka said the Corps is open to conducting a technical study to consider the effects of operational changes at the plant.

Shafer said he has been pushing the Corps for years for such a study. He sees an opening to finally get it done in last year’s passage of the Water Resources Development Act, which allows the Corps to accept funds from nonfederal interests to evaluate potential operational changes at Corps projects to aid production of nonfederal hydropower.

Harris and Shafer also told lawmakers the site can’t meet discharge temperature limits, as specified in its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, because of a recently revised legislative rule. Shafer said site representatives hope to address the issue with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Artist Charly Jupiter Hamilton dies at 73

Charleston artist Charly Jupiter Hamilton has died. He was 73.

Hamilton died from complications resulting from exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, according to a statement from city of Charleston.

Born in Feb. 24, 1948 in Princeton, New Jersey, Hamilton grew up on a dairy farm in Troutman, North Carolina. After graduating from Troutman High School in 1966, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a gunner’s mate aboard the fleet oiler USS Ponchatoula.

After military service, he spent 31/2 years studying literature and arts at the University of North Carolina.

Hamilton came to West Virginia in 1977 and worked as a carpenter, according to the statement.

Through the next several years, Hamilton was in and out of the state, but made Charleston his permanent home in 1985, where he gradually became the city’s most recognizable artist and one of the most prominent artists in West Virginia.

Hamilton’s art is a mixture of mischief, merriment and misery. Within the joy of his art, there was much sorrow, including some of his own, such as the accidental drowning death of his 21-year-old son, Sandor, that weighed on him, as well as his struggles with alcoholism, according to the statement.

A prolific sculptor, carver, painter and printer, Hamilton’s work has been exhibited and collected around the country but also frequently has been displayed in many area businesses, homes and is part of Charleston’s cityscape.

His “Wonder Mural,” for example, features prominently on Charleston’s West Side.

In July, Hamilton was honored by the city with a street dedicated to him, Charly Jupiter Way.

In addition to his son, Hamilton was preceded in death by his mother, Margaueite Czerna Hamilton, and father, William Kellogg Hamilton.

He is survived by wife Rhoda and son Sam Belsky, granddaughters Stacia Hamilton (Mike Perez), Sharley Hamilton, great-granddaughter Fable Perez, siblings Bill (Karen) Hamilton, Kathy Hamilton Vaughn, Elizabeth (Betse) Hamilton and Mary Margaret (Robert) Tripp.

Kanawha Commission to consider Clendenin annexation

The town of Clendenin wants to annex two properties just south of its existing limits on Elk River Road.

One is the future site of Clendenin Elementary School, which will be built off U.S. 119 near Wolverton Mountain Road. The other is the site of a new boat ramp near the school site on the Elk River.

The proposed annexation would include the section of U.S. 119/Elk River Road from its existing limit south to the boat ramp, but it would not include private homes or businesses along the way.

“We’re only taking the school property ... and the boat ramp. We have not gone to any of the personal homes or any of that,” Clendenin Mayor Kay Summers said.

Clendenin passed an ordinance approving the annexation. The Kanawha County Commission will have a public hearing about the annexation at its meeting Thursday. If approved, the town’s limits will officially change as of the county commission’s order.

The Kanawha County Board of Education, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, which built the boat ramp, and the state Department of Transportation have written letters supporting the annexation.

Having the school within town limits would allow it to have town services, such as police protection and traffic control, as well as trash pick-up.

“We’ll be there after school to block traffic ... on U.S. 119,” Summers said. “Or if they have an issue on the boat ramp that needs police protection, we’ll go there. If they need police up on the hill, we’ll go there. And, before, it would have been that they would have to call Kanawha County.”

Tom Williams, superintendent of Kanawha County Schools, said that, in addition to benefiting from town services, the school system sees value in the school being a part of the Clendenin community overall.

The town will benefit from business and occupation tax from vendors at the school, Summers said.

The new school will replace the old Clendenin Elementary School, a century-old structure that stood inside town limits and was damaged in the 2016 flood.

Summers said the new $30.7 million school is a rare bright spot for the town to come from the devastating flood.

“I don’t want people to think I’m happy it flooded, but I think we need to look at positives from negatives,” Summers said. “I think we need to look at the bright side that, at the end of the day, we’re going to have a brand new, state-of-the-art school in the town of Clendenin.

“That is going to welcome new people. That’s going to welcome people to come and want to come to our area,” she said.

The DNR asked the town to annex the boat ramp, which it built earlier this year, said Zach Brown, assistant chief of operations with the wildlife resources section the agency.

The division has a boat ramp on the north end of Clendenin and is working with the town to design another one in the middle of town, Brown said.

The agency typically looks for partners to help with operational maintenance and costs associated with mowing grass and picking up the trash, Brown said.

“Having a local police force that’s able to help us with patrol really makes the site better and makes it more for its intended use and reduces what I like to call alternative uses — non-intended uses [of the boat ramp],” Brown said. “Sometimes, if areas are out of the way, they can become problems. Having a local sponsor, having local buy-in, we find, makes a much better access point.”

Andrew Gunnoe, deputy county manager and assistant county attorney for the Kanawha County Commission, said that, because the town approved an annexation by ordinance under West Virginia code 8-6-4, which allows municipalities to annex territory without an election in certain circumstances, the county’s responsibility is ministerial in accepting the application and entering an order setting the new town limits.

Commission President Kent Carper said there does not appear to be any legal reason not to support the annexation.

“Unless I’m missing something, I will in all likelihood support this,” Carper said.